With Tweetminster and the general explosion in the use of Twitter it is perhaps not much of a surprise to find that the European Parliament on Twitter. Europatweets offers a news feed and links to a significant number of MEP twittering in order, as the site states, to make "Members of the European Parliament closer to their citizens". Visitors to the site are asked to "Follow what they say, react and retweet interesting thoughts". No great surprises so far, however what is interesting is the level of usage compared to the UK parliament, parties and elected members. There are only 42 tweeting MEPs, but between them they have produced 2,365 individual tweets. The UK has four tweeting MEPs with more than 100 followers, Lib Dem Graham Watson, Northern Ireland's Jim Nicholson and Labour MEPs Arlene McCarthy and Mary Honeyball; showing she is keen Labour candidate Anne Fairweather is also a member already and has 207 followers. Only Graham Watson, with 677 followers, looks to be making an impact though; the other 11 have 95 or less. Compare this to Portuguese MEP Rui Tavares, not only does he appear to tweet every couple of minutes at some points, he has 1,233 followers as well as a well read blog; the Socialist PES tweet most closely followed by the Greens. So What?
Well clearly someone is interested in what MEPs get up to, they are creating their own buzz and the citizens of the nations they represent are interested in them. Watson is perhaps a pioneer here, consistent with the Liberal Democrats' approach to new media, but the interest of UK MEPs perhaps reflects the lack of interest in the European Parliament generally. But perhaps it is an indication that such a tool can increase engagement and actually can, in Tavares case, put an MEP in touch with a fair proportion of people and if Word of Mouth is powerful perhaps if all of these tell another nine he may find it pays dividends for him. Will this be the tool for the near future (until the next gimmick comes along) and what role will it and can it play for MEPs and MPs?